menu_californiafeature2

 

Part 2 Contributors

 

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch


Part 1 Contributors

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky


President, Publisher & Founding Editor:
Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Glenna Luschei
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Vice-President: Elena Poniatowska
U. S. General Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
London Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Geraldine Maxwell
New York Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large:
Meena Alexander
Washington D.C. Editor/Senior
Editor-at-Large:
Laura Moser
Deputy Editor: Allen Hibbard
Deputy Editor: Jerónimo Mohar Volkow
Deputy Editor: Bina Shah
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
General Editor: Malvina Segui
Art Editor: Lara Alcantara-Lansberg
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Sampurna Chattarji
Sarah Churchwell
Hollis Clayson
Sally Cline
Marcelo Cohen
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Siobhan Harvey
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Thomas Luschei
Laurie Maguire
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Paschalis Nikolaou
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Molly Peacock
Pascale Petit
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Élisabeth Roudinesco
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Daniel Shapiro
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
Rebecca Swift
Susan Tiberghien
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Assistant Editor: Sara Besserman
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Conor Bracken
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Lucila Gallino
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Krista Oehlke
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Naomi Schub
Assistant Editor: Stephanie Smith
Assistant Editor: Emily Snyder
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Assistant Editor: Laurence Webb
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

 
Click to enlarge picture Rooja Mohassessy
Rooja Mohassessy
Californian Poets Part 2: Three Poems
by
Rooja Mohassessy


 

 




Bahman Mohassess.
Untitled.
2009.
Assemblage.



NATIVE

The thermometer grazes one hundred at near dusk. I squint into
the heat and walk with a self-preserving pace to the trash bin,
past the native, deer-resistant California lilac I planted some springs ago.
It’s almost fall and the lilac squats stunted, nibbled to three bare sticks.

I spot a lone doe in your yard, still as a taxidermy,
sustained by sparse poisonous shrubs, this golden landscape of
dearth. The hunger in her eyes, her commanding drive to survive,
I translate in my wishful thinking into a reasonable effort,
nothing egregious I hope—Ranch dressing perhaps, not quite
poison, but the way my Persian palate accommodates, happily tolerates
the plastic squeak of julienned bell peppers, croutons in a salad.

Perhaps she rations poison akin to the measured gestures I mete out
still after all these years, to acclimate, address strangers with well-oiled
greetings in lines in coffee shops and farmers markets, beaming
under the shameless sun, in a baseball cap and cut-off shorts.

The truth is you’ll be hard pressed to find fault with me.
Even now, neighbor, as we eye each other askance from across
the road, you itching to run me out, like the pest you would down
for foraging your dry lawn. I’ve grown decorously unselective, pasture
in pure reception, neither preference, nor denial. I imagine I’d be
crowned victor by now, at the ceremony of natural selection, a survivor
peering at you through brown gazelle eyes, virtually colorblind.

Next time a cousin visits and asks where my skin comes from, you’ll find
me embalmed, preserved as a curio. You may point. I’m a precious collector’s
item. But for now, won’t you come in for a drink, neighbor? I’ve minced
the barbed leaves, for want of black wild berries this year, you know
how they’ve shriveled like dark little clenched fists. I’ve snapped the dusty
sticks too from the brier, coarsely ground them into this Blackberry Bramble.

Let us toast and feel the draught rip our throats, hit the same gnawing
spot we share in this scorching twilight; it seems no ordinary drink
will wash away our animosity, each hunching uninsured at home in the heart
of the High Fire Hazard Severity Zone where you stand and brandish your gun,
the American flag leaning across to thrash the air beyond your deck.

The truth is I’ve grown weary of giving you no reason to shoot. What shame
that I too now listen to the breeze as though it rustled through the blue oaks
to spite me. I wish you’d play along, amiable as a tabula rasa, a still-life.

I go through my Monday rituals, fasting to remember the humiliation of hunger,
I pour two drops of bleach on the lid of my fifty-gallon refuse bin to keep
the bears at bay and retreat back inside. Two hours south, Tahoe residents
share their crawl space, what’s called bearbnb. In Paradise, an hour
northeast, the homeless roam like ghosts, the ash refusing to settle.







THIS SPRING

Here I’ve memorized the profile of a daffodil,
its mouth the dented trumpet of the new day,
the verve of fescue grass too, I know well,
on this, my parcel of barely arable land overrun

with dovefoot. Three seasons ago, I buried
the hyacinth in haste, by the soggy foot
of madrone. Late for a date, squatting in my heels,
I scooped out a pasty gob of clay and pushed the bulb

a good way into the hill. The blush Walmart bloom
had faded, days past Nowruz, and I didn’t have the heart,
now that I owned a plot, to trash a flower. For years,
I’ve neglected to set the table, the hyacinth

my only memento of the seven ‘C’s of haft seen.
The cluster of fragrant stars on the dusty sill,
the dreamy head I prop up with a take-away chopstick,
leans at times into the glass as though lovesick

for a glimpse of the jewel-studded throne
of Jamshid as he tarries on his vernal traverse across
the sky to reassure a swallow. I suppose I must
expect miracles, those shy spots of color that

touched my heart, a year ago today, I looked
out and where I had buried one, stood two crinkled
blooms, one behind the other as the child keeps up
in the taffy-pink new-year dress. They’d come,

the fall leaves of madrone, winter’s debris piled
at their feet, they’d come, though I’d fed none,
nor watered any. This Nowruz, a crowd assembles
here, at the footpath to the house, the mixed spring

garden pack of thirty—daffodils and paperwhites, freesias
conference with a host of blue iris. I drop my bags,
lift, on my knees, the bowed head of a hyacinth to mine,
a chevron of geese overhead ushering in the new year.








Bahman Mohassess.
Untitled.
2008.
Assemblage.



FROM HERE

Little keeps them apart
but a shade of cyan.

Like a pair of young thighs
in skinny jeans, they press
into each other, impatient
with the lateness of the hour.

Or a pair of lips,
the lower in restless ripples,
bruised azurite.

To pry sky
from sea, you’ll need
the Egyptian funerary tool, Setep,
for Opening of the Mouth.

The sea will billow
like the blue gorget
of a hummingbird
as the sky spreads,
keeping still.